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American Exceptionalism

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 5, 2011, the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. King) is recognized for 30 minutes.

Mr. KING of Iowa. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that recognition, and I appreciate the input that has come from the gentlelady from North Carolina. I came down here to change the subject, but I wanted to speak about regulation, and I'll just wrap up those thoughts that I had before the clock ticked down and take it over to this.

As I emerged into the construction business that I identified, I found myself doing seminars with other people of the same profession around the five-State area in the upper Midwest with our trade association, the Land Improvement Contractors of America. In that five-State area as I traveled around and held those seminars, I began to ask the questions of self-employed people. Most of them had started the business themselves, and they were employers doing this in the kind of way that we need to encourage more Americans to do rather than discourage them with regulation.

I began to ask them, How many agencies regulate your trade? As I asked that question, there might be 60 to 70 contractors in a room, and we would begin to write down the names of those agencies. And, yes, some of them were divisions within the agencies. You can start with the IRS and the EPA and you go on and on and on. OSHA, the mine regulators. It continues on. But we came to this number of our little narrow trade group, 43 different agencies that regulate us. And we needed to know the regulations from 43 different agencies. We needed to be able to anticipate how they would interpret those regulations and how they would Enforce them, and then you also had to calculate, when they contradicted one another, what the likelihood would be of one entity showing up, one agency to regulate you versus another.

If they had conflicting regulations, then you ran your operation to try to comply with the one that's most likely to show up to regulate in contradiction with the other. That goes on in America every single day. There are floors and floors of lawyers and administrative experts whose job it is to try to keep those companies from avoiding the conflict that comes from Federal regulations and, of course, our State regulations that are part of that as well.

It is a great frustration to enter into a business wanting just to provide that good or that service and do it with in a marketable, competitive way; to have a margin of profit and control your destiny and raise your family and do those things that are acting out the American Dream, and find out that a lot of your life is really just tied up in meeting with government regulations and serving this Congress and dealing with so many people that can control the destiny of some 300 million Americans, who have never signed the front of a paycheck, who have no idea what it's like to not maybe have any capital and go out and build a little bit with some sweat equity and take that little bit of capital and roll it and invest it, and after a while find enough margin out there and enough customers that you're compelled to hire a person to help you.

Now there's two people working there instead of one. And then you multiply that again and you take some more sweat and your little bit of equity and now you get to double up the equity and now you get to have another employee and another. While that's going on, you're building a capital base that bridges you through the hard times.

And the attitude, especially over on this side of the aisle, is an attitude that employers somehow are victimizers of the proletariats. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Speaker, I would say to you that those folks here in this Congress--and most of them are over on the liberal side of this aisle--believe that employers are victimizers and that employees have a certain virtue to them. I'll just say that we have good and evil in all of us. But the people who risk their capital and many times put everything they have on the line and help stand to lose it all if it doesn't work, they're not taking advantage of the employees. They're giving the employees a job.

Republicans over on this side, we say: jobs, jobs, jobs. Well, yes, we want those jobs. I don't believe that government creates the jobs. I think we should stop saying we need to create jobs. We don't. We need to get government out of the way so that investors can see an opportunity for profit. And if they see that opportunity for profit, they won't just invest their capital or their sweat; they will produce the kind of jobs out there that will sustain people in a market economy.

That's what needs to happen because, first, there have to come profits. You can't pay payroll very long if you don't have profits, which means that you're not going to have jobs unless people make money. So what do we do in this Congress? You people over here, you want to punish those people that are making money. On this side of the aisle, we don't want to call those people that are punishing the people that are seeking a profit because we're saying we want jobs.

We should all say we want to see profit in these companies so that that profit gets reinvested and more people have an opportunity to go to work and receive a paycheck and perhaps a raise and a better benefits package. And maybe, if that profit gets so great in those companies, they'll spin off of there and the people that learn the business going to work for the boss end up in competition against the boss. That's another thing that is the American way.

These kinds of things need to happen organically over and over again in America millions of times. And if they don't happen, then this country devolves itself down into a European-style social democracy. it's hard for me to even say those words and think of America in that fashion. We've moved in that fashion dramatically.

Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States doesn't believe in these things that I have described that I think are good. He's advocated this Keynesian economy on steroids. He's advocated for spending trillions of dollars, borrowing it. About half of that money, by the way, is borrowed from the investors in America, who believe that U.S. Treasury bills are the safest place to put their money.

And actually it may be if you're going to talk about global currency, the other currency has gotten unstable, too. The euro is in a very unstable, unbalanced condition right now. They have spent money in the European Union--money that they didn't have. They have built a government bureaucracy much heavier than needed to be.

I've twice been to Greece this year, and they have their head in the sand, in my opinion. They believe that they are the first of a multiple dominos in the EU and that they're only 2 percent of the GDP of the European Union, and if they're not bailed out by the EU--and that means, yes, loan guarantees, but it gets down to debt forgiveness at a certain point--if they're not bailed out at a certain point, if they default, then they will move away from the euro, the currency, and pick up the drachma again and print their money back in Greece a second time, or again.

If that happens, they think the euro becomes less stable if the Greeks aren't involved in it. They argue that they're a domino. So if they're not held up, propped up by the rest of Europe, then they'll fall as a domino. And if that happens, the euro will start to tumble. By the way, their domino will clip Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, name your country over there.

Well, it may or may not be true. It's hard to look at Greece and argue that they are a domino, and if they fall, that they'll necessarily hit one of those other unstable countries that will also fall into one and the other and the other. And it will start this cascading effect through the dominos of those unstable countries in Europe might not be true. It might be true that Greece could have a firewall built around it; and if they default, they default. And they'd have to rebuild their country from bottom up, inside out, back to production again.

I hope that this doesn't happen in Greece. I hope that there's a stable economic environment that grows out of Europe. We're tied to them financially with hundreds of billions of dollars invested over into the European banks. If they should fail, then it hurts us badly.

We're also highly leveraged in this country. The comparison of us to Greece is one that is considerably disturbing. There is a good side to a potential Greek default, and that would be that it would give this Congress a lesson for what America needs to do to avoid a similar calamity. I would like to see us steer our way out of this, but we're here having a debate in this Congress about minutiae in proportion to the scope of the problem that we are in.

We came into this new Congress with a new Speaker, John Boehner. We have an opportunity with 87 new freshman Republicans that came here. Most of them pledged not to raise the debt ceiling. Most of them pledged to bring us back to fiscal responsibility and fiscal accountability. They all believe that to this day. I don't think they've lost their beliefs. But along the way there were a lot of big decisions that needed to be made without time to analyze. And so what happened?

I said the first thing we needed to do was repeal ObamaCare, repeal ObamaCare, repeal ObamaCare. I can't say it enough. We need to repeal ObamaCare if we're going to have a country that will function and operate economically again. It drives us so deeply into debt that just removing a couple of those components of ObamaCare, according to Denny Rehberg, the chairman of the HHH Appropriations Committee--Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee--it would cut our spending over the next decade by $1.379 trillion. It would solve the whole problem of the supercommittee, that $1.379 trillion cut that comes just from ending the expansion into Medicaid. By the way, the CLASS Act was going to go anyway. The administration admitted that they couldn't sustain that component.

One other component in ObamaCare was the individual premium subsidy for those who were compelled to buy insurance under ObamaCare. Those components totaled $1.379 trillion. So we strike those out, shut off any funding to that, and we've saved that $1.379 trillion. That would more than handle the $1.2 trillion that we're directed in the debt ceiling deal.

But, Mr. Speaker, this went this way. We had a chance coming into this new Congress, this 112th Congress, to draw bright lines and to ensure fiscal responsibility and actually fix the real scope of this problem. Step number one was repeal ObamaCare.

We passed that out of this House, H.R. 2, sent it over to Harry Reid in the Senate, Mr. Speaker, where he set it up for failure and they shot it down.

So every Republican in the House and every Republican in the Senate has voted to repeal ObamaCare. Congratulations, thank you all for doing that. We didn't get it done, but we got it voted on. And it's on the conscience of the people that voted ``no'' that that monstrosity of a regulation churns its way through, consuming $105.5 billion in automatic appropriations that were written deceptively into ObamaCare in an unprecedented fashion. Oh, yes, the tactic had been used before, but the scope had never been used like that before.

And so that $105.5 billion is in there. And it's around $26 billion in the first 2 years of ObamaCare, this year, next year, $26 billion being churned away. And if we had reached an impasse on our negotiations with the continuing resolution, the CR that hit at midnight on March 4, if that had resulted in a showdown that would have been the President causing a shutdown, that might have seen the lights go off in Federal offices all across the land, Mr. Speaker. But you could have driven around the Federal buildings here in this city and around the Federal buildings across America, and where the lights were on in that eventuality, they would be on because the money that funds ObamaCare goes on anyway; it's automatic, they call it mandatory spending. And we tried to shut that off as well. And we did send the amendment language out of this House of Representatives that shut off all of the funding to ObamaCare. And it went over to the Senate, but it was attached to the bill that went with the CR as an appendage so that they could separate it out and vote it down in the Senate--and that's what Harry Reid did in the Senate also, Mr. Speaker.

And so here we are with a Congress that began kind of on the right foot with an opportunity to force a showdown with the President of the United States and make him defend ObamaCare. We could have legitimately funded all of the functions of government--or we could have responsibly funded all of the legitimate functions of government would be a better way to phrase that, Mr. Speaker--and shut off all funding to ObamaCare. The President of the United States then was predicted to veto a bill like that. Had he done that, he would have had to explain to the American people that his signature piece of legislation, ObamaCare, means more to him than all of the legitimate functions of government combined. That would have been the showdown. It should have been the showdown. I believe that we would have prevailed on that showdown. And I think the President would have had to accept the funds that we put on his desk in a CR appropriations bill, minus any funding that goes into ObamaCare, cutting off all the automatic funding that goes to ObamaCare--could have, would have, should have done that, Mr. Speaker.

We moved past that point. The CR was going to be $100 billion in cuts; it didn't become that. That number went down low enough that I'll not utter it into this Congressional Record. It's just not something that people go back and revisit that even voted for it. And then we were going to do yeoman's work and cut trillions of spending with the budget bill that came to the floor of the House, known as the Republican budget resolution, that was championed by Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who has done great work here on fiscal responsibility. That budget didn't balance for 26 years, Mr. Speaker. That was all we could get out of this Congress. It's hard to craft a budget that comes that close. He did a lot of hard work on it and laid out some good parameters that we need to pick up and deal with.

But the budget resolution here on the floor of the House was a promise from ourselves to ourselves that we were going to hold this spending down. And this spending allocation was agreed to by this Congress--by the majority of the House of Representatives, excuse me. The Senate hasn't passed a budget in so long I don't remember when. And so Mr. Speaker, that budget was passed, balancing in 26 years, spending too much money, leaving us with $23 trillion in national debt 10 years down the road. And it was a great step in the right direction--not as strong as I wanted it to be, not as strong as the RSC budget, which I voted for, but the one that could pass that could constrain our spending. I voted for them both. The RSC budget that balanced in about 9 years and the Ryan budget that balanced in 26 years left us with $23 trillion in national debt 10 years down the road. That doesn't sound very appetizing to the American public, those facts, Mr. Speaker, but those facts didn't hold.

The promise from ourselves to ourselves went kind of out the window when the debt ceiling agreement was presented to the floor of this Congress and ultimately passed. And in that was a supercommittee, in that was a promise to vote on a balanced budget amendment, and in that was the threat that if the supercommittee didn't produce a product that could pass the Congress and be signed by the President, then there would be the sequestration--which I don't know where the language of that came from, but the sequestration is the automatic cuts that we're looking at now.

I knew when the debt ceiling deal was finally put on paper that we had to go through a number of things. One of them was we had to have a debate about how we were going to define a balanced budget amendment. Well, we had that debate. And I think I won the debate and lost the decision, but nonetheless, the clean version of the balanced budget amendment was brought to the floor. I didn't call it a clean version. I think we needed to have the balanced budget amendment that passed the Judiciary Committee. We should have let the committee work its will. The Judiciary Committee marked up a balanced budget amendment that had a cap at 18 percent of GDP on spending and it had a supermajority in order to raise taxes. It was the right thing to do. It had exemptions there for a declared war or a case of a serious national emergency and other provisions. It was a good constitutional amendment that we could live with that would strengthen this country over the long term. We didn't have a vote on that. We had the one that said that thou shall have a balanced budget and allows for a tax increase to balance that budget. And of course you get to a certain point with tax increases and then you see a decline economically. And I think we are past that tipping point today, Mr. Speaker. That was another one of our struggles.

So now we're faced with a sequestration. I'm thankful that the supercommittee didn't send us a package that couldn't pass the Congress, the House and/or the Senate. I never believed that they could. They concluded they couldn't reach an agreement. There was completely an impasse. Republicans said we're not going to raise taxes and Democrats said we aren't going to do it if you don't raise taxes. They want to punish the people that are producing. They would increase the taxes--you guys over there, you would increase the taxes on the people that are paying the most taxes. You would increase the taxes on the people that are paying the highest percentage. You would argue that it's progressive.

And, you know, you're never going to be satisfied. I know you won't be satisfied. If I can tell you today--and tomorrow is the first day of December--that I have a magic wand, and I promise you all that we're going to give you what you want, and you've got all of the month of December to put your wish list together. And when the ball drops in Times Square in New York on New Year's Eve at midnight and the new year, 2012, begins, here would be the deal--here's the magic wand: Give me a list of all the things that you
want to do to take away the liberty and freedom of the American people, take away the wealth and the capital that has been so justly earned by people in this country and redistribute the wealth in the ideal of Karl Marx or any of the other leftists that you worship, grant all of the wishes that you have, reorder society according to all your dreams, and let you have 30 days to put the list together. And at midnight, when the ball drops at Times Square, stroke the magic wand, give you all your entire wish list.

If I had that power and if this happened in this fashion, I will tell you, you guys would work hard. Your lights are on at night; you're well funded and you're smart people--you're wrong on your philosophy, but you would put together a list, and it would be a long list. And it wouldn't be without some internal fights--and Barney Frank will still be there after all, so there would still be some of those internal fights going on. And in the end, if I granted you your wish at midnight at the new year, but the deal would be that you had to then stop complaining the rest of your life, you would have to live under the rules that you had written that you spent 30 days--all your career wishing and dreaming and working and leveraging for in this Congress, we'd give you everything you asked for on the new year, but you'd have to be quiet then and live under those rules. And I can tell you what would happen. You would stay up all night long on New Year's night thinking, what did we forget? How did he cheat us? We really forgot to leave this in, we need to change the rules. And we're going to want more and more and more. Because, first of all, you don't want to admit to the American people what you really want to do. You're anti-capitalists, you're anti-American liberty, you're anti-free enterprise. There are a number of the pillars of American exceptionalism that you just plain oppose. And here we are, hardworking American people, why do we have all this capital? It never was a zero sum game. It never was. If you look back, where was it when the, let's say the caveman first went out there and brought a pelt back and turned it into a blanket.

There was a little bit of wealth that was created out of the labor that's there. When they were scavengers and foragers, they still made tools. And along the way, somebody else could make a tool a little better, a little more efficient, and someone else could raise a little garden and trade some vegetables for some arrowheads, whatever it might be. Someone else could tan a hide better than the person that hunted for the pelt, and so they traded labor.

And in the middle of all of that, they acquired things. They said, I'll tell you what. Let's do two pelts. You keep one, I'll keep the other. Fine. Now there's two blankets where there had only been one before. And on and on they went, building and building and building capital because we had free enterprise capitalism. We let people invest their sweat, and they turned it into equity.

And eventually they invented the wheel, and along came the industrial revolution, where we built things and we put them on ships, and we traded around the world. And we found that there were resources that were developed in other countries more efficiently than we could here.

Adam Smith wrote in ``Wealth of Nations'' about how they had the wool industry going on up in England and Scotland and in Ireland, and so they should be the ones there that were shearing sheep and turning that into clothing, and put the wool products that they did so well on ships and sail them down to Portugal, where they were a lot better at raising grapes and turning that into wine. And bring back a load of wine and a ship full of wool, and that was the division of labor that he described. And both countries were better off.

Mr. Speaker, whenever there are two people that trade a dollar, and it's a business transaction, or it's two or more, maybe it's three, four, five or six people in this exchange, these business deals are set up because each party benefits. There doesn't need to be a loser in an economic transaction.

And when I hire somebody to go to work for me and I pay them a wage, they get something in return. They want the money; they want the benefits. They might want the challenge. I hope they do. And they want to contribute, and we reach this agreement. It is a contractual agreement between two consenting adults. And so capital is built; wealth is built. It's not a zero sum game.

Gold got mined out by the Incas and the Aztecs, and Adam Smith wrote about that. And he said the Spanish galleons went back across the ocean with having cut out the cost of labor--he didn't say by stealing the gold from the Incas and the Aztecs. He said they cut out the cost of labor. And once they removed a significant cost of the labor of producing the gold from them, they dumped it into the markets in Europe, and the price of gold went down.

Well, supply and demand, the cost of the capital and cost of the labor goes together to produce any product that we have there. And over the centuries we built ships and we built buildings and we built highways, we built bridges, and we created cash and currency to trade our labor back and forth with a commodity that would be willing to exchange. That's money.

And then the capital that's built in this world now is trillions and trillions. And, yes, class envy sets in and people think they get a case of the ``poor me's'' if government doesn't go hand them a job.

And I hear some of you that say, well, the people that want to work should work. People who want to work should have a job. I would argue that the people that are able to, that the people that are able to work need to sustain themselves, and they need to contribute to the gross domestic product in this country. It is the patriotic thing to do.

America has created now this culture within us that somehow the Federal Government is going to guarantee a middle class standard of living to everybody that lives in this country, legal and illegal.

Mr. Speaker, I know you're going to be astonished at this, but there are 72 different means-tested Federal welfare programs functioning in the United States today; 72 of them. There isn't a single American that can name them from memory. If they can't name them from memory, neither can they describe them.

And if they can't describe them, neither can they understand how they function individually, let alone understand how 72 different welfare programs can interact with each other and function to provide an incentive for people to do the right thing, which is produce for themselves, maybe get an education, develop some job skills, go get a job.

William Bennett told us, when I came to this Congress, that he said he could solve 75 percent of the Nation's pathologies. Get married, stay married, get a job, keep a job. That's 75 percent. You know, if he's right on that, I'd say the other percent is substance abuse.

I'll bet we could get to about 99 percent if people would get married, stay married, get a job, keep a job and not abuse alcohol and reject illegal drugs. You'd solve a lot of the domestic squabbles that go on and this society would go on. We need to be a moral society.

But we are a Nation of doers and achievers, and our culture is being eroded by those who want to expand the dependency class in America.

And that's you folks over on that side of the aisle. You're in the business of expanding the dependency class in America. It goes on over and over and over again. And you do that because some of you believe, maybe even all of you believe, that it is somehow a humane thing to do to take from the sweat of one person's brow and hand it over to someone who won't sweat for their own. But you do it because it expands your political base, and then you pander to and cater to the people that you're promising somebody else's labor to.

And you think that America's going to be stronger? No, we're getting weaker. We've reached the point now where these 300 million Americans that we have, when you add up--we talk about how many on unemployment do we have. Oh, it was 15 million; now it's 14 million.

You look at the weekly numbers of the new sign-ups and that number ranges down there under 400,000 or so.

And we think, oh, it was a good week. We had less than 400,000 new sign-ups to unemployment. And people run off the other end and they expire and they're no longer eligible, and so that number went from around 15 million unemployed down to around 14 million unemployed or a little more.

That's not the number that we should be most concerned about. It is a number. We should add the 14 million that meet the definition for unemployment to the number of Americans that are of working age that are simply not in the work force, Mr. Speaker.

The Department of Labor has that on their Web site. Anyone can go there. I think it's, something like that. And on that Web site you'll see different age groups of those working age. It starts at age 16, 16 to 19. There are around 9 million Americans of that working age that are simply not in the workforce. Yes, they may be in school. A lot of us worked our way through school. And I started before that age of 16.

And then you go from 20 on up to 25 or so, there's another chunk. Work your way on up.

Americans of working age not in the workforce, when I came to this Congress not that long ago were 69 million. Then it became 80 million. And about 2 1/2 months ago the number, for the first time in the history of this country, the number of Americans of working age not in the workforce now has exceeded 100 million Americans--100 million. Think what you could do with the labor of 100 million Americans.

And while that's going on, now we have, what is our number, 11, 12 or more million illegals in America? I actually think it's 20 million or more, but they keep tamping that number down. They keep coming across the border, and the number got lower instead of greater by some analysis.

But in any case, we know this: about seven out of every 12 illegals here in this country work. That's marginally a little greater than the number of Americans that are working. And that seven out of 12 that are there are part of around 8 million, 7 million to 8 million documented, I'll say study-analyzed consensus numbers, 7 to 8 million illegals in America that were working. Now, if they all woke up tomorrow in their home country, that conceivably creates 8 million new jobs.

Well, you know, if they weren't coming into this country illegally, you wouldn't need so many people to go guard the border either, and they could do something productive rather than something that's not contributing economically to this country in the fashion that produces goods and services.

So there's 8 million jobs there. But there are many other jobs out there for the people that will go out there and start a business, go ask for a job, compete in this marketplace. And every one of the 100 million Americans who are not working that puts in 1 hour's work even a week contributes to the gross domestic product of the United States of America.

People who are not working, not producing, are not contributing, unless of course they've got investments that are returning, and then I'll give them some credit for that.

But 100 million. Think if you were on a boat or a ship, and let's say you had 300 people on that boat or ship, and you had to have some trimming the sails, some pulling the oars, some swabbing the decks, some down in the galley, some cooking, cleaning, housekeeping and somebody up there taking care of the captain.

And what if you had 100 out of those 300 people that said, I'm going to sit here in steerage. Bring me my food, clean up my mess. That's the scope of what America is faced with today.

I'd put the people on the oars. I'd put them up there trimming the sails and swabbing the decks, and we will sail a lot smoother, we'll be a lot stronger country, and we'll feel better about ourselves. This dignity of work is there for every man and woman that takes that job on.

And I challenge us all: let's step up, take the freedom we have left. Let's grasp for more of that liberty. Let's grasp more of that freedom, and let's put some of these 100 million people to work so they can contribute to their gross domestic product.

The rest of the world will respect us more. We'll be stronger economically. We'll have more prudent people that are contributing to the ideas in this Congress, and we will get to a balanced budget, and we will start to pay down this national debt, and we will enforce and respect the rule of law.

Mr. Speaker, I would go on for another half hour articulating some of the other pillars of American exceptionalism, but I recognize there is a limit to not your patience, but my time.

I appreciate your attention, and I would yield back the balance of my time.

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